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Expert's Corner — sandpaper

TIP: Sanding with a Random Orbit Sander

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TIP: Sanding with a Random Orbit Sander

There are two large categories of random orbit sanders: electric and pneumatic (compressed air.) Both work well, though you need a fairly large compressor to power a pneumatic sander adequately. Random orbit sanders are easy to use; you don’t need much instruction. But there are two general rules to keep in mind for achieving the best results: Let the weight of the sander do the work. If you press down on it, you’ll leave deeper and more obvious “squigglies” that then have to be sanded out. Simply move the sander slowly over the surface in some pattern that covers all...

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TIP: How to Lighten an Oil Stain

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Say you stain an object with a store-bought oil (“wiping”) stain and the color is too dark. Assuming you haven’t yet applied a finish, how do you lighten it? Most importantly, don’t sand. Whatever you do, you have to do the same everywhere to keep the color even, and you won’t be able to control the depth you sand to evenly. It’s much better to try wiping with naphtha. It’s a little stronger than mineral spirits. See if it pulls out some of the color. What you’re trying to do is break down enough of the binder that holds the...

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Primers and Sealers

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I’ve said this many times, but it deserves repeating because so much confusion still exists. Primers and sealers perform entirely different functions. Primers are necessary for paint because paint won’t bond well to rough, porous wood. Paint contains a high percentage of pigment (in order to hide well) and only enough binder (the same as finish) to glue the pigment particles to each other and to an underlying smooth surface. Because even well sanded wood is still porous, and thus not smooth, more binder is required to achieve a good bond. Paint primer contains a higher binder-to-pigment ratio than does...

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Preparing Wood for a Finish

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Preparing Wood for a Finish

The reason you have to sand wood before applying a finish is to remove machine marks. All machine tools leave cuts or impressions in wood that are highlighted by stains and finishes, especially by stains. Before machine tools appeared in the mid-nineteenth century no sanding was needed. Indeed, there was no sandpaper. Wood was smoothed with hand planes and scrapers. You can still use hand planes and scrapers to smooth wood; you don’t have to use sandpaper. You can hand plane or scrape the wood straight from the saw, or you can begin the smoothing with a jointer and planer...

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